McDonald’s Corporation

FAIRR Commentary

McDonald’s policy on chicken covers more than 85% of its global chicken supply chain and is focused only on eliminating antibiotics deemed to be Highest Priority Critically Important to Human Medicine (HPCIAs), except for the U.S. where the company has eliminated medically important antibiotics from all chicken served in its restaurants.   The company has been under increasing investor pressure including being subject to multiple shareholder resolutions over the years, most recently in 2018. The last resolution requested global sourcing targets with timelines for pork and beef raised without the use of medically-important antibiotics for disease prevention purposes.  This resolution was withdrawn, and the company responded in December 2018 with the announcement of a new antibiotics policy on beef and dairy beef that covers more than 85% of McDonald’s global beef value chain. This policy stands out within the quick service and casual dining sector because until now, very little action had been taken by companies to address antibiotics use in beef supply chains.

FAIRR Recommendations

We are encouraged by McDonald’s commitment to antibiotics stewardship. However, we would encourage the company to further strengthen their programme by:

  • Extending the scope of their chicken policy to cover medically important antibiotics for all territories. 
  • Developing and implementing an antibiotics stewardship policy for pork.
  • Extending the scope of all their policies to go beyond medically important antibiotics in order to phase out the routine use of all antibiotics. 
  • Clarify how third-party audits are and will be rolled out across all relevant markets and species to ensure supplier compliance.
  • Reporting more comprehensively and publicly on implementation progress including antibiotics use.

Company Comment

McDonald’s approach is one of responsible use of antibiotics, focused on overall reduction of antibiotics medically important for human medicine as defined by the World Health Organization. McDonald’s current policy for chicken covers more than 85% of our global supply, addresses both routine use and veterinary oversight “Antibiotics shall not be used for Routine Prevention or for Growth Promotion.  In addition, Antibiotics shall only be prescribed by a licensed chicken veterinarian that has clinically diagnosed an infectious disease or illness, and such Antibiotics must be used strictly in accordance with labelled and veterinary direction for dose, duration, route, frequency, withholding period and withdrawal times.” Markets covered by the policy include; Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Russia, China, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Ukraine.

McDonald’s new policy for beef applies to beef and dairy beef. During the data collection phase of our beef antibiotics policy, we are collecting antibiotic use data from dairies that cover the last lactation of the dairy cow prior to slaughter plus the most recent dry period.  McDonald’s policy for beef focuses on an overall reduction of antibiotics medically important to human health as defined by the World Health Organization. McDonald’s beef antibiotics policy follows the antibiotic categorization set by the World Health Organization (WHO) of antibiotics important to human medicine and adopts a tiered approach for usage under the guidance of a veterinarian:

  • Antibiotics defined by WHO as medically important are not permitted when used for growth promotion.
  • Routine use of medically important antibiotics for prevention of disease are not permitted. Medically important antibiotics for human medicine are not permitted for the prevention of infectious diseases in food-producing animals in McDonald’s Supply Chain except in non-routine, narrowly defined situations.
  • Critically Important antibiotics for human medicine are not permitted for the control and/or treatment of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals in McDonald’s Supply Chain.

For non-routine prevention, control and treatment, exceptions for antibiotic use can be made based upon the advice of a qualified veterinarian familiar with the disease history in the herd, taking a tiered approach using those antibiotics least important to human medicine first. Where critically or medically important antibiotics are used for the prevention, treatment and/or control of clinical disease, the veterinary herd health plan should be reviewed and adjusted to employ tailored preventative strategies that will reduce the need for future treatments.